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ECE Graduate Advising Office
2090 ECE Building
306 N. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
(217) 300-2414

ece-grad-apps@illinois.edu

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Graduate Student Program Overview

The Qualifying Examination
and Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy

The Graduate Faculty determines whether a student is admitted to Ph.D. candidacy. The following criteria are used in determining admissibility:

  1. Competence in research. The Graduate Faculty evaluates the candidate’s ability to do independent research work. The Department administers a research oriented examination of the student and also takes into account the Ph.D. advisor's comments in making this evaluation.

  2. Scholastic competence as determined by undergraduate and graduate academic records, including grades, class ranks, instructor evaluations and comments, and GRE scores.

The rules specifying when students take the Qualifying Examination are slightly different for students entering with Bachelor’s degrees and students entering with Master’s degrees, and are as follows.

Rules for Students Entering with Bachelor's Degrees

Students entering with Bachelor’s degrees must take the Qualifying Examination no later than the fourth semester in residence. (Students are encouraged to take the examination by the third semester if possible so their research can proceed in a timely manner.) To be permitted to register to take the Qualifying Exam, a student must satisfy the following three requirements:

  • A Ph.D. Thesis Advisor Agreement must be on file with the ECE Graduate Advising Office.
  • Twenty hours of coursework other than seminar (ECE 590) and thesis research (ECE 599) hours must be completed. The twenty hours must include at least twelve 500-level hours other than reading or individual study courses (ECE 597), and at least four of these 500-level hours must be ECE courses.
  • A grade-point average of at least 3.25 is required on all graduate coursework completed and also on all 500-level Electrical and Computer Engineering coursework completed.

Students who fail to satisfy these requirements by the beginning of the fourth semester in residence are not eligible for admission to Ph.D. candidacy and may not take the Qualifying Examination.

Since the quality of M.S. thesis work is taken into account in determining admission to Ph.D. candidacy it is advisable to have made substantial progress on the M.S. thesis by the time the Qualifying Examination is taken. In addition, a student must have a Ph.D. Advisor Agreement on file with the ECE Graduate Advising Office prior to registering for the Qualifying Examination.

Rules for Students Entering with Master's Degrees

Students entering with a Master’s degree must take the Qualifying Examination no later than the third semester in residence. To be permitted to register for the Examination, a student must satisfy the following requirements:

  • A Ph.D. Thesis Advisor Agreement on file with the ECE Graduate Advising Office.
  • Eight hours of coursework other than seminar (ECE 590), individual study (ECE 597), or thesis courses (ECE 599) must be completed. The eight hours must include at least four hours of 500-level ECE coursework.
  • A grade point average of at least 3.25 on all graduate coursework completed and also on all 500-level Electrical and Computer Engineering coursework completed.

Students who fail to satisfy these requirements by the beginning of the third semester in residence are not eligible for admission to Ph.D. candidacy and may not take the Qualifying Examination.

Registering for the Qualifying Examination

Students seeking Ph.D. candidacy who satisfy the above requirements may register for the Qualifying Examination in the first two weeks of the semester. At this time, they declare their principal area of study from the following list:

  • Acoustics
  • Algorithms and Computing
  • Bioengineering
  • Circuits
  • Communications
  • Computer Architecture and Logic Design
  • Control Systems
  • Fields and Waves
  • Physical Electronics
  • Power
  • Quantum Electronics
  • Remote Sensing and Propagation
  • Signal Processing

The Departmental Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

The Departmental Ph.D. Qualifying Examination is administered by a three faculty member committee that is assigned by the Department. The chairperson of the exam committee is selected from outside of the student's principal area of study and the other two committee members are faculty who are familiar with the student's research area. All exam committees will be assigned by the end of the third week of the semester.

Admission to Ph.D. Candidacy

Following the examination, the Graduate Faculty evaluates the student’s research and scholastic competence with respect to the admissibility criteria 1 and 2, and decides whether to grant or deny admission to Ph.D. candidacy.

Qualifying examination committees may impose a set of binding requirements that the student is required to satisfy before being admitted to Ph.D. candidacy. If the examination committee has imposed binding requirements and if the Graduate Faculty votes to grant admission to Ph.D. candidacy, such admission is contingent upon satisfactory completion of the binding requirements. All binding requirements must be completed by the end of the second semester (not counting summer semesters) following the examination. If the binding requirements include coursework, a grade of 'B' or better must be earned in each course.

A student who does not register for the Qualifying Examination at the required time, or who registers but does not appear for the examination, is denied admission to Ph.D. candidacy and may not take the Qualifying Examination in a subsequent semester unless the student obtains permission to do so by successfully petitioning the ECE Graduate Committee.

A student who takes the Qualifying Examination by the required time and is denied admission to Ph.D. candidacy may take the Qualifying Examination in the following semester, provided that a Ph.D. Advisor Agreement is still in in place and that the 3.25 GPA requirement is satisfied. A new exam committee will be assigned for a student's second attempt. The student’s entire record is re-evaluated at that time.

A student who has been denied admission to Ph.D. candidacy twice is no longer eligible for admission to Ph.D. candidacy.